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‘Legends & Lattes’

A cozy breath of fresh air for the fantasy genre

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Legends and Lattes

It’s an indoor, fuzzy socks kind of day. The raindrops pitter and patter against window panes, complementing the crackling of the fireplace. A mug of coffee warms your hands. You inhale deeply, savoring the nutty, earthy aroma as you switch between sips of the bean-based drink and bites of a cinnamon roll. All of a sudden, the desire to read hits you.

If you’re in need of a book that perfectly encapsulates this mood, look no further than “Legends & Lattes” by Travis Baldree.

“Legends & Lattes” isn’t your generic fantasy book — it blew up BookTok with its quiet, yet compelling adventure where protagonist Viv, an orc mercenary, retires from her bloody past to brew coffee. Trading a life of long nights and sword swinging, Viv follows hope, the word of a legend, and her desire to run a coffee business.

The story was written as a project for nonprofit NaNoWriMo’s national novel writing month. Writing a chapter each day and being held accountable by a narrating coworker, Baldree cranked out “Legends & Lattes” in the span of one month. He published it with no expectations, but unexpectedly acquired a huge fanbase in response. On Nov. 10, in celebration of the official launch of his low stakes fantasy novel, Baldree visited the University Book Store.

Baldree said the book is a perfect read for “someone who enjoys the trappings of fantasy, but wants to read something that is more immediately relatable to them.”

As a fantasy enthusiast myself, I contend that Baldree delivers on this promise. He immerses us into a magical world full of fun creatures that coincides with soft romance, real-life struggles, and familiar fantastical language. This change of pace made for an easy, enjoyable read; it isn’t a book where you’re wondering for the first 100 pages how the magic system works.  

“[The book is] easy to slip into; in general, it is more about the people and less about world building,” Baldree said. “The fantasy adds a little bit of fairy dust to what are basically mundane matters ...Things that are mundane are worth more than being considered mundane.”

In the book, Viv emanates this sentiment, learning that running a business with friends is just as thrilling  —  as well as safer and more fulfilling — than slashing foes in half.

There are two prominent themes in “Legends & Lattes”: the importance of found family and defying societal expectations and assumptions. The characters consistently pave a new path for themselves, forging lifelong bonds along the way.

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Baldree, who didn’t follow the traditional route for fantasy stories, spoke of his desire to write a story that was fantastical, yet different.

“I didn’t want a sword to be swung past the first sentence,” Baldree said.

With a career in audiobook narration, Baldree often found himself reading the same genre of high stakes fantasy books — with “Legends & Lattes,” he knew he wanted to bring something different to the genre.

“I’m hungry for other sorts of things,” Baldree said. “I like books that are sort of like chicken soup books, [books] that make you feel good after you read them … I just wanted to write something far away from what I normally get to read for work that I still would enjoy.”

Not only does Baldree relate to his characters by wanting something fresh, he also has experienced switching careers and starting anew. From video game design to audiobooks and writing, Baldree has continually found ways to keep his career exciting.

“It was kind of personal to me, the idea that — even in your 40s — you can just do something different,” Baldree said. “You don’t really have to start over, because a lot of what you learn over life is how to do things, how to live and exist and succeed. Those are transferable skills, so you’re not as stuck as you feel a lot of the time.”

This book is full of sweet sentiments, humorous remarks, and descriptions that will not only leave you hankering for coffee, but will give you the idea that you, like Baldree and Viv, can make your own beginning. So, if you haven’t already, put on your fuzzy socks, grab a warm drink, cook up one of the book’s famed baked goods, and get to reading.

If “Legends & Lattes” leaves you ready for more, you’re in luck. Baldree will continue Viv’s story in his prequel, “Bookshops & Bonedust,” which is planned to hit bookstores within a year, and is self-described by Baldree as “cozy enough, but with significantly more skeletons.”

Reach contributing writer Kaycee French at arts@dailyuw.com Twitter: @SpaceKaycee

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